VMS stability back in the day (was Re: NuTek Mac comes)

Guy Dawson guy at cuillin.org.uk
Thu Jul 14 16:51:05 CDT 2016

I was running a 3 node VAXcluster in the late 1980s. We had two 8550s and
an 8820 connected via a CI star coupler to two HSC70 storage controllers
and 24 RA81 drives; two upright tape (TU78s?) drives too. The drives were
connected to both HSC70s in RAID 1 pairs. We had 11 pairs, a spare and a
quorum disk for the VAXcluster.

The environment was rock solid and ran for many years. We could do rolling
VMS and application upgrades on the three nodes. A great production system.

We even had an X25 based DECnet connection between Australia where the
system was installed and the UK where our software company was based.

On 14 July 2016 at 21:50, Swift Griggs <swiftgriggs at gmail.com> wrote:

> On Thu, 14 Jul 2016, Sean Conner wrote:
> > What I've read about VMS makes me think the networking was incredible.
> Big Fat Disclaimer: I know very little about VMS. I'm a UNIX zealot.
> I work with a lot of VMS experts and being around them has taught me a lot
> more about it than I ever thought to learn. I respect the OS a lot and I
> agree with Mouse about parts of it still being object lessons to other
> OSes. I don't see any point in "UNIX vs VMS" which I gather was a big
> bruhaha back in the 1990s.
> Personally, given the mess of MultiNet, TCP/IP Services, and TCPWare, I
> wouldn't make that statement about networking *at all*. However, maybe you
> are talking about DECnet. I don't know much about DECnet except that it's
> very proprietary and it's got a bunch of "phases" (versions) that are
> radically different. Some are super-simple and not even routable, and
> others are almost as nasty as an OSI protocol stack.
> When using TCP/IP related tools they all seem like basic-functionality
> ports from the Unix side (but stable and usable nonetheless). Plus, IIRC,
> some of the code came right outta Tru64 / OSF1 in the 90's. That's what
> some of the VMS guys told me, anyhow.
> > But having used VMS (as a student), the command line *sucked* (except
> > for the help facility---that blows the Unix man command out of the
> > water).
> The DCL command line is very foreign to me. I've seen people rave about
> how regular and predictable things are in DCL, and I've seen some evidence
> of that. I've also seen some spot-on criticisms of DCL scripting vis-a-vis
> shell scripting and that's also accurate.
> As far as the help system goes, it's got that regularity I mentioned. It's
> very predictable to get help for a given switch or command argument.
> However, versus a modern FreeBSD box? The man pages are MUCH better in my
> opinion that DCL help. They are more detailed with sections of help that's
> usually not even available in the DCL help.
> As a UNIX guy who doesn't hate VMS at all (I think it's cool) my basic
> impression is this:
> Strengths versus Unix:
>  * More granular authentication/authorization system built in from very
>    early days I'm told. "capabilities" style access control, too.
>  * Great hardware error logging that generally tells you exactly what's
>    wrong (even if you have to run a turd like WSEA to get it out of a
>    binary error log - same as Tru64 though).
>  * Lots of performance metrics and instrumentation of the OS's features
>  * Very solid clustering. (no, it's not incredible and unsurpassed like
>    some people still say - other OSes have similar features now, but it
>    took a very long time to catch up to VMS.)
>  * Some fairly nice backup features (but not as advanced as, say,
>    whats in LVM2 or ZFS in some ways).
>  * Regularity. It's hard to articulate but VMS is very very "regular" and
>    predictable in how it does things.
>  * Crazy stable.
> Downsides versus Unix:
>  * There is a lot of software ported to VMS, but a lot still missing too.
>    Open source projects often lag by years. It's all volunteers
>  * No x86 support, you gotta find a VAX, Alpha, or Integrity/IA64 box.
>    Maybe VSI will fix this, and maybe they are so politically screwed up
>    they will never get it off the ground. We'll see. I have an open mind.
>  * DCL is very very weird to a UNIX user and I miss tons of features from
>    UNIX. I say "weird" but when it comes to scripting, I'd go as far as
>    saying "weak". I mean, no "while", no "for", and lots of other things I
>    dearly miss.
>  * No source code for the masses and licenses out the yazoo. It nickel and
>    dimes you for every feature (but so does Tru64 and many others to be
>    fair).
> If you are a VMS bigot and you take offense at any of this, please go easy
> on me. I'm just giving my impressions, not stating any of this as absolute
> truth or law. I'm certainly not trying to bust on VMS. I think VMS is
> neat.
> -Swift

4.4 > 5.4

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